Why haven’t Democrats realized their own goals in Democrat-run states?

U.S. states are sovereign, have the authority to impose income, wealth, and consumption taxes, can borrow money, can make it illegal for employees to work for less than a threshold wage (and also illegal for an employer to pay more than a limit wage?), handle law enforcement and criminal justice for most issues, etc.

Why haven’t states run by Democrats achieved at least most of the social justice agenda that Democrats say they want?

Consider income inequality. California, for example, has a top income tax rate of 13.3 percent and a minimum wage of $12/hour. There is no reason the state income tax rate couldn’t be 30 percent with a minimum wage of $20/hour, right? (California Democrat and Presidential candidate Tom Steyer says that he wants a higher minimum wage that is a “living wage,” which would be roughly $50/hour in California to lift a family above the welfare eligibility thresholds.) That would narrow the spending power inequality (can be a measurement challenge) considerably, a goal that is related to the “income equality” goal that Democrats say is important to them.

(Same deal here in Massachusetts. Off-the-charts support for reducing income inequality and, simultaneously, among the highest levels of inequality in the U.S. Nobody in Washington, D.C. could prevent us from establishing a progressive income tax, raising wealth/property taxes, etc. and redistributing the money to poor residents. Yet we don’t do it, nor do we raise our minimum wage from $12 to $15 (or $20!)/hour.)

One objection to high tax rates is that people will move to avoid them. Yet Sweden was comfortable with this during its experiment with high tax rates back in the 1970s. If rich citizens moved to Monaco, the happy middle class Swedes said “good riddance.”

(Swedes experienced with multi-national business on our recent Northwest Passage cruise said that Sweden now has lower effective tax rates than the U.S. The nominal personal income tax rate in Sweden is comparable to Federal+California, but executive or entrepreneur Swedes are generally able to avoid this by turning what would have been ordinary income into capital gains.)

Democrats (e.g., Kamala Harris and Tom Steyer) say that they want a universal health care system. One third of Californians are already on Medicaid (“Medi-Cal”). Californians older than 65 should be on Medicare. Why not use the revenues from the above higher tax rates to automatically enroll everyone else on Medi-Cal and they can use it if they don’t have employer-provided insurance?

California Democrat Kamala Harris says that she wants free four-year public college (PBS). Why couldn’t California’s legislature vote to eliminate tuition at the University of California and Cal State?

Democrats say that they don’t want children to inherit wealth from parents. States have the power to impose estate taxes and a bunch do. Why wouldn’t the Democrats who control California change the state constitution to enable the collection of an estate tax?

California Democrats say that they would like less car-emitted pollution. They have the power to impose high annual registration fees on older high-pollution cars, highway tolls that are partially based on emissions output, and congestion fees to eliminate urban traffic jams. Yet they don’t do any of these things and instead blame the federal government for not letting them dictate emissions standards for new vehicles (which would do nothing to get a 20-year-old high-pollution car off the California roads).


24 thoughts on “Why haven’t Democrats realized their own goals in Democrat-run states?

  1. Haven’t you heard? The failure of leftist policies is due to white privilege, white supremacy, and white nationalists. The solution, of course, is to curtail free speech, unlimited immigration, no borders, and much more spending.

    • Free speech and immigration might interact with federal policies, but “more spending” is easy for a state legislature! So my original question remains. Why aren’t taxes and spending yet higher in states controlled by Democrats?

    • If states cannot have their own fiat currencies, how would they manage to do QE?
      And without an active and progressive monetary policy, no reasonable undocumented immigrant will ever vote for them.
      And without the undocumented vote, how do they elect the right people?
      And without the right people in power, how would they achieve the communist nirvana?
      And without the paradise, how would the best people survive?

  2. because Dems are all about manufacturing problems to get huge amounts of money thrown at them and all the money goes through Dem hands.

    Nothing ever gets better, point to one thing the Dems and liberalism have accomplished.

    Name one. Healthcare? Schools? Homelessness? Illegals drugs?

    Now they are trying to scam us with the Green New Deal and the drumbeat of climate change ( by the way if climate change truth is on your side why do you have to manipulate the data all the time?)

    Finally, Trump is calling out forty years plus of corrupt, thieving, oligarchy government and they know its game over.

    • All this could be true, but my original question is unanswered. Why wouldn’t California state Democrats get together and make minimum wage $15 or $20/hour within their own state? They could pass the law and get it signed within a few days. And it wouldn’t cost anything except for some paper and ink.

    • Name one. Healthcare? Schools? Homelessness? Illegals drugs?

      Medicare is probably the most popular institution in American life.

    • “Illegals drugs?”

      Are you claiming Dems are responsible for the production of illegal drugs? Failing to stamp them out? What are you even trying to communicate here?

  3. Maybe, counter intuitively, the labor unions are against it because they lose flexibility in labor talks and can use a minimum wage fight to help drive up membership.

  4. At least in New York, I think the answer is obvious. Many powerful Democrats here are of the comfortable capitalist class and would not like to share more of their money with their lowly wage earning employees or, worse, poor people who are not really contributing much economically. However it’s of course socially impolitic to just say that. Hence the outward rhetoric.

    My congressman is a “liberal” who worked in NYC corporate law for his money and lives in probably the wealthiest town in the district. All of which I’m basically fine with. But I seriously doubt he or his donors would like to be paying higher taxes on their capital gains to implement his professed goals (nor would I).

    But then I don’t go around crusading for economic justice, I’m just some suburban schlub whose school taxes went up 23% this year for whatever reason, and the expectation is that I STFU and pay the piper or else be accused of not caring about having a functioning society, etc.

    I like it here but will probably have to retire elsewhere due to the local governments inability to control costs, or at least make the increases linear (common in Northeast I think).

  5. It’s amazing how hard those 2/3 majority requirements are to overcome, even in the politburo. Democrats universally support controlling human behavior: banning phones in cars, banning plastic bags, banning meat, banning sexuality. Financial matters are still highly contested.

    • banning phones in cars: never happened, maybe banning hand-held phone use while driving? You probably also think seat-belts are terrible.

      banning plastic bags: good for the environment, what’s the downside?

      banning meat: never happened, but also good for the environment ( or at least properly apportioning the cost of meat farming ).

      banning sexuality: what??

    • @baz I live in CT and actually support (unusual for me) the 10 ¢ tax on plastic bags. That was enough of a nudge to get me to schlep in the reusable bags, which I already had. Yesterday the local paper confronted me with a story that includes the following phrase: “A new 10-cent fee intended to discourage the use of plastic shopping bags is working so well that the state is losing money.” Losing money????? Only in CT could a law created to change behavior (and does), costs the state nothing, be construed as “losing money”. Why? Well the budget projected $27.7 million in revenue due to the new tax. Since revenues are less, the state “loses” money (where did it go?).

    • @baz:
      banning plastic bags: Plastic bags are incredibly low-material and low-carbon to make (try to measure the thickness of one outside of a lab). estimates of the relative environmental impact of cotton bags are something like 7000-1, that is, you need to reuse a single cotton tote 7000 times to break even with the impact of using a new plastic disposable bag each time. Reusable plastic totes are better than cotton but still take several hundred reuses to break even. Disposable paper bags are better than reusable plastic but still several times worse than disposable plastic.

      Bans like this actually pass BECAUSE they accomplish nothing. Things that have a significant positive effect on the environment have a significant immediately-perceived negative effect on people’s lives and those laws never pass no matter who is in power. Examples: giving up meat, giving up cars, giving up single-family homes (with big green lawns!), giving up cheap consumption of all types of goods.

    • Could you imagine all those insect colonies denied home in those plastic bags?
      As one humorist said, do not touch plastic – plastic is a goal of human evolution, mother earth needed plastic and spawned humans to make it. Plastic will be thee when we are long gone.

  6. Oh come on Phil. Most of the dems running for president are wealthy by the standards of most Americans and the last thing they want is to jeopardize their wealth by implementing their inane ideas. I mean Eliz Warren is worth like $12 mil or something — you really think she wants to give it away to some ding dong who majored in dance therapy and now can’t pay off her student loans? If she did she would have done so already. Beto married into wealth (no one works harder than someone who married for money) — you really think he wants to “redistribute” it through “reparations”? Kamalla is married to some fat cat. And Bernie is not exactly poor either.

    • Jack: what you write could well be true of national politicians, but a lot of their state legislator brothers, sisters, and others are not wealthy. A state legislator isn’t typically either an employer or a minimum wage worker. Why not vote for a $20/hr “living wage” as the minimum? Even if the legislator has a fat stock portfolio it is likely diversified across other states and countries.

  7. Democrats (e.g., Kamala Harris and Tom Steyer) say that they want a universal health care system. One third of Californians are already on Medicaid (“Medi-Cal”). Californians older than 65 should be on Medicare. Why not use the revenues from the above higher tax rates to automatically enroll everyone else on Medi-Cal and they can use it if they don’t have employer-provided insurance?

    You write as if Harris and Steyer are the Queen and King of California. Neither holds any power in the state government. Also Medicaid is a combined federal and state program. You may have read something about that at one time. California can’t enroll anyone that it chooses in the program. That just one example of how US states are not what you call sovereign. They are barred from doing many things that nation states do, such as waging war or issuing their own currency.

    Interestingly, Massachusetts got it’s rate of uninsured down below 3%. Of course, that was done by a Republican governor who used ideas developed by a conservative DC think tank. Years later, it was implemented nationally and became a source of partisan controversy.

    • Here are some California state legislators singing the praises of free tuition: https://asmdc.org/press-releases/legislators-push-two-years-tuition-free-community-college-ca

      Why didn’t they do it for all of the state’s colleges and universities? “In the fight against income inequality, a free education is the greatest instrument we have,” said one of the righteous.

      I don’t think that the Feds can stop California from paying for more health care. At worst the Feds can say they don’t want to pay any of the cost.

    • It’s always to keep in mind the fact that many of the richest people in the country made their fortunes in industries supported by the federal government. So any state that tries to fight inequality is battling the federal government.

      Also, the questions you’re posing here haven’t led to any interesting answers.

  8. Easy. The kind of arseh*les who fund the leftist politicos are getting their income from state giveaways. They are all for taxing captive middle class – it increases the state trough they feed at. They really take exception at taxing themselves (the only pigs who are for that are the of same kind, only much bigger… Soros and his ilk). Never ascribe to ideology what can be adequately explained by sociopathy.

  9. I like your question(s) Phil, but Those democrat socialist proposals for the whole country aren’t meant to actually be accomplished. Democrats in power just use them to exploit class envy in order to acquire votes. My wife and I debate this from time to time. Either the people making and promoting these proposals are all stupid (doesn’t seem likely), all dishonest (not all of them, surely), or all emotionally (or perhaps socially or psychologically) underdeveloped (no way all of them).

    I just think the democrat socialists have finally degenerated into a perfect mixture of all of these types. Although some of these proposed ideas/laws have some merit and should definitely be tested for viability, it seems the Dishonest Types swing enough power over the Stupid and Emotionally Underdeveloped Types that serious implementations are thwarted.

    50 Petri dishes. No end to experimental law possibilities and very little to show for it.

    • One interesting federal law might be:

      No law may be passed for implementation throughout the whole nation until efficacy (including financial viability and constitutionality) can be demonstrated in at least two thirds of the 50 states. I think this could result in congress being in session for only 30 days each year and would have a similar effect to returning senatorial selection to to the states as representative of their sovereignty.

  10. JK’s point on the “democrat socialist proposals” is correct. I also contend there are three types of people of the LEFT.

    1. LIBERAL USEFUL IDIOTS governed by Social Justice PC – BS feelings and or guilt (mostly white and you can lump in the limousine Liberals here). As well as the masses of brainwashed professional victims filled with envy and self-interest, demanding equal outcomes not equal opportunity. Who JK called the Stupid and Emotionally Underdeveloped Types…the cannon fodder of the Left.

    2. COMMUNIST IDEOLOGUES, the hard core believers who have riddled academia (and other institutions) with their Animal Farm beliefs while hiding under the banner of democrat socialists PC-BS…the true Bolsheviks. They feed the fires of envy demanding equal outcomes not equal opportunity to keep the ‘Stupid and Emotionally Underdeveloped Types’ marching, protesting, and rubbing their hands together demanding someone else’s money.

    3. GLOBALISTS BANKSTERS, the puppet masters using both Liberals and Bolsheviks to achieve their New World Order goals. Socialism and Communism are just interconnected tactics to them while their Think Tanks and International cabal meetings map out and plan their long term goals.

    Their ideology is a religion, they rule from the very tip of the one eyed pyramid, and they are all Luciferians.

    Machiavellian Banksters with an evil glint in their one eye, pumping up and popping economic bubbles while buying up the world’s valuable hard assets with their fiat toilet paper after their carefully engineered popping’s…while striving to eliminate the middle class turning them all back into serfs?

    They dream of returning all of us ‘Back to the Future’ they pine for, their heyday, the darkest times of the middle ages when they were two classes – royalty (them), and the rest of us had two choices: slavery or serfdom.

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